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Science in action at STEM Day

2 November 2015
Western Sydney high school students learn how to prepare for STEM careers

Making ice cream with liquid nitrogen and untying shoelaces using maths are just some of the interactive activities bringing science to life at the University of Sydney's STEM Day of Inquiry this week.

Amid calls from incoming Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel for new teaching methods in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to equip students for the jobs of the future, the event will see 330 year 9 students from 11 schools across western Sydney gain a hands-on experience of science in action.

The STEM day encourages students to continue studying maths and science into higher education, with presentations by renowned mathematics commentator Dr Clio Cresswell and science personality Dr Karl Kruszelnicki.

The immersive educational day will also provide guidance to students on the subject choices available at university and how to prepare for STEM-related careers.

As part of the inaugural STEM Fair at the event, students will join sessions on:

  • I Scream For Ice Cream – Students learn about the scientific properties of liquid nitrogen by using liquid nitrogen to make ice cream
  • Sink or Swim A fun challenge to build a vessel from modelling clay that floats on water and holds as much weight as possible, teaching students about engineering and buoyancy
  • Mathematical Manacles Students use lateral thinking and topology to untie their shoelaces using mathematics 

Other highlights from the STEM Day of Inquiry program include:

  • Forensic psychology and lie detection A brief introduction to forensic psychology using a polygraph test
  • Project management robot game Teams battle budget and time restraints to design a robot using household materials
  • Arduino platform Students get hands-on with the user-friendly microprocessor platform Arduino to build a computer program and control LED lights
  • The Great Spaghetti and Marshmallow Challenge Using only spaghetti, a marshmallow, sticky tape and string, students learn modern design and architecture techniques by building a free-standing structure
  • Tracking wildlife with telemetry Students use radio-telemetry to track animals around the University campus
  • 3D print and laser cut robot-building Students witness 3D printers and laser cutters in action to build robots using laser-cut pieces

The event follows the announcement earlier this year of a generous $1 million gift to the University of Sydney from Mr Roger Massy-Greene (BSc '70 BE '71) and his wife, University Chancellor Belinda Hutchinson AM (BEc '76) to improve the teaching of STEM subjects in disadvantaged schools.

The gift, which was pledged as part of the University's Pave the Way fundraising initiative in September, will provide scholarships to recruit the University's best STEM graduates into the Master of Teaching program, in the hopes of raising the number of highly-qualified STEM teachers and increasing the number of high school students from disadvantaged schools taking on these subjects at senior level. 

The STEM Day of Inquiry is presented by the University of Sydney's Compass program in collaboration with the University's Faculty of Science, Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies, Faculty of Agriculture and Environment and Faculty of Architecture and Design, in conjunction with Young Scientists Australia.